Do Philosophers Talk Nonsense? An Inquiry into the Possibility of Illusions of Meaning by Ian Dearden

Forum Philosophicum: International Journal for Philosophy 18 (2):269-278 (2013)
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Abstract

In his newly reissued and revised book, the philosopher Ian Dearden at- tempts a critical inquiry into a philosophical position he calls “nonsensi- calism,” which he takes to correspond to the view “that it is possible to be mistaken in thinking one means anything by what one says”.1 He holds that an unexamined assumption to this effect is implicit in a large swathe of philosophical work dating from a period stretching throughout most of the 20th century, thanks to the widespread tendency of philosophers to accuse each other of talk- ing nonsense. This is, according to the author of the book, most visible in the earlier and later philosophical writings of Wittgenstein, in logical pos- itivism, and in representatives of the Oxford-based “ordinary language” philosophy movement, as well as in the writings of many of those subse- quently writing under the influence of these. Dearden coins a special term to refer to the sort of error that philosophers are accusing each other of having committed: he calls such cases of error “illusions of meaning.”

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